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Congratulations! You’ve landed an interview for a new job and now the hard work starts — interview preparation. While there’s no guarantee of what an interviewer may ask you, it’s good to be prepared for some of the most common interview questions including, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Why do Employers Ask “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
The question of where you see yourself in five years is a great way for potential employers to learn more about your goals, motivations, and future plans. It’s likely that an interviewer asking about your future goals wants to better understand how you could fit into the organization in the immediate term as well as in the future in the following ways.
This can also help them to understand your ideal career progression which can help them determine the best candidate for open roles. A hiring manager or recruiter who asks about your future plans is likely wondering if you have long-term intentions to find a career with their business or if you’re just looking for a short-term job.
Another reason potential employers ask job applicants about their future goals and plans is to get a better understanding of how the job seeker fits with the current and future needs of the company. A job seeker who is looking to stick with the status quo for many years isn’t the right fit for a management fast-track program. On the other hand, a person who wants to be in a leadership role may not be fulfilled by a position with little room to grow. By asking about future goals in an interview, the hiring manager can help to determine if there is a good job/candidate fit.
Where do I See Myself in 5 Years?
Before you can answer an interviewer, you’ll need to spend some time thinking about what where you see yourself in five years. Consider making a vision board or using a goal-setting worksheet or app to help you organize your thoughts and goals. You can choose to focus specifically on your career and professional life or expand your goal setting to other areas and aspects of your life.
As the power in the job market increasingly shifts from employer to employee, keep in mind that you should also be interviewing a company as much as they are interviewing you. Asking yourself “Where do I see myself in 5 years?” is a great way to eliminate positions or companies that wouldn’t be a good fit for you.
“Where do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
Prepare your response to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” by asking yourself the following questions:
What kind of industry or business do you want to be working in?
Even if you have a specialized or advanced degree in a particular field, there are likely several different industries where it can be applied. One of the first things to consider is what industry you want to work in and whether you’re looking to work in the public, private, or non-profit sector.
You should also consider the size of the company you want to work at. A large company will likely have strict operating procedures and clear-cut roles and processes, while a smaller company will often allow you to gain a wide variety of experiences in a single role and may be more flexible to your needs.
What working conditions are you looking for?
With the popularity of remote work, many job seekers have more options than ever when it comes to their working conditions. Consider whether you’re looking for a remote, on-location, or hybrid work arrangement. If you are working in an office or at another location outside of your home, think about the working conditions that will work best for you to set yourself up for success. For example, a cubicle-filled office versus open-concept or a factory that has air conditioning vs one that doesn’t may make the difference when choosing between similar, competing job offers. You should also think about the schedule you are looking to have and make sure to factor in any potential commute when making decisions.
What do you want your schedule and time commitment to be?
Your work is only one part of your life and if a position doesn’t fit in with the other needs and responsibilities you have, it’s likely not going to be a long-term fit. That’s why it’s important to figure out the time you’re willing to commit to a position. This means deciding between part-time and full-time positions, as well as finding out about expected hour commitments for salaried positions. Many job postings will have the schedule listed, but there’s often room for adjustment, so it’s good to be open and clear with interviewers when discussing your ideal schedule and time commitment.
How to Plan Your Response
Once you’ve undergone some introspection and you’ve figured out what is most important for the future of your career, you can really begin planning your response to this question.
There are many good ways to answer when an interviewer asks you where you see yourself in five years. It’s important to be honest about your desires and goals. There are ways to craft the responses that can help you stand out while still conveying your true intentions.
Focus on Experiences, Not Specific Job Titles
One of the main reasons an employer is asking about this question is to understand specifically where you see your career in five years. If you envision yourself leading a team, working independently, or managing some aspect of a business, now is the time to share these goals. It’s also a good idea to talk about skills or experiences you’re hoping to have gained in five years. One thing to stay away from is detailing a specific timeframe or job titles as this often leads to less-than-positive reactions.
Draw connections between your goals and the job description
While an interviewer may be asking where you see yourself in the future, you are interviewing for a job in the present. Even if your future goals have nothing to do with the specific job, there are likely skills or experiences that you can draw connections from.
For example, if you’re applying for a food service position while working to complete your teaching degree, you may say something about how you see yourself teaching in five years and using all the interpersonal and time management skills you gain in this job to help better manage your classroom and future professional relationships.
Be honest with yourself
It’s possible that the position you’re applying to won’t align with your future goals. If you can’t imagine how you could possibly answer the question of “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and tie it back to the role you’re interviewing for, you may want to reconsider the position. Not every company or position is the right fit for every person, but if you can’t imagine yourself gaining anything but a paycheck from this opportunity, it may be worth it to consider other opportunities at another organization.
How NOT to Respond
In addition to figuring out what you should say, it’s equally important to stay away from responses you should definitely not say to an interviewer. Context is key so there are few hard-and-fast rules of what to avoid, and these responses are likely to shut down your chances of a second interview or job offer.
“I don’t know.”
This lackluster response can shut down an interview quickly. Many new recruiters and hiring managers use this question as an ice breaker of sorts, so non-response can create a negative tone right off the bat.
Even if this is true, or even if this is a seasonal position that you’re not likely to return to, it’s still not a good idea to tell an interviewer that your five-year plan does not include this company in such a direct way. Instead, try positioning your answer to truthfully state where you see yourself in five years and then try to connect that end-goal to some experience or skill you hope to gain from this position.
“Doing the same work for your competitor”
It’s never a good idea to tell potential employers that your end goal is working for their competitors. If you’re taking a position with one company to gain industry experience, that’s a perfect thing to say. What will likely sink an interview is to say that you’re wanting experience in an industry so that you can finally get a job with another firm.
Example Answers to “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Creating and practicing responses to potential interview questions is a good way to project confidence and ensure you have a solid response ready to go. Here are a few things to remember when answering the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” in an interview.
If you’re interviewing for a position you hope to stay with long-term:
- Connect the position you’re interviewing for to where you’d like it to lead in the future
- Avoid being overly specific
- Mention the fact that you’re looking for a long-term role
“My five-year goal is to excel at my position and take on more responsibilities within my department in efforts to move into a senior role. Over the next five years, I intend to continue to keep up with industry trends, build a strong professional network, and take on many new and challenging projects within the company that will prepare me for a leadership role within your organization.”
If you’re interviewing for a seasonal or short-term position:
- Talk about your true 5-year goal. If there’s no future with this role, this is your chance to give the interviewer better insight into who you are.
- Mention skills you’re hoping to gain or perfect in this role that translates to your 5-year plan
“My five-year goal is to become a middle school science teacher. I’m currently working towards my bachelor’s degree at the local university and this position is a great way for me to use my organizational and time management skills to create a positive impact at your company.”
If you’re not passionate about this job, but still need a job:
- Focus on general skills you’re hoping to gain or perfect
“My five-year goal is to be in a management role or leadership position. I believe this job will allow me to take on many interesting projects while allowing me to improve my already strong interpersonal and customer service skills.”
Preparing for an interview is the perfect time to check in with your current professional status and create new goals for yourself. When it comes to answering the question of where do you see yourself in five years, focus on the experience you hope to gain as well as your overall goal.